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May 2013 Software Development Update

2013 May 30
by Amaya Webster

“Born Digital, Born Accessible Learning Sprint” a Resounding Success

It was a truly exciting and productive few days for the 30 educators, technologists, and accessibility specialists who gathered on May 20-22 at SRI International in Menlo Park, CA this month for the “Born Digital, Born Accessible Learning Sprint.” As we mentioned in an article last month’s newsletter, Benetech, the Inclusive Design Research Centre, and the Shuttleworth Foundation-funded OERPUB project jointly sponsored the accessibility “sprint” to discuss, envision and prototype end-to-end tools for creating, discovering, and reading accessible rich and interactive eBooks.

The “unconference” style meeting began with lightning-round demos of works in progress by the participants, which was the perfect launching point for what followed: Breakout groups discussed challenges that teachers and students face with regard to accessibility and identified who exactly would benefit if that particular problem were solved. Then, in another lightning round, each group presented their challenges to the rest of the group. The next day’s task would be to pick the most pressing problems, and prototype solutions – which we did! “It was really a thrill to see prototypes go up in 90 minutes,” said one happy participant. On the third and final wrap-up day participants identified best outcomes and, most importantly, next steps for implementation.

Some “favorite learnings” from the group related to math and images:

  • Converting MathML into browser-agnostic, ARIA-accessible SVGs by server-side processing of MathJax and ChromeVox using PhantomJS and Node.js
  • Work on user interfaces for long description and linking behavior

At the end of the three days, the energy and excitement in the air was palpable. The synergy that came from face-to-face interaction between developers, educators, and AT specialists was really exceptional.  “I can’t wait to see how far we can push these ideas!” said one participant during the closing session. There are definitely opportunities stemming from this event that DIAGRAM can leverage to further the work we are doing on accessible images and math.

Don’t miss Kathi Fletcher’s excellent blog postings to read more about the outcomes of this event.

DIAGRAM Subcontracts Update

We are excited to report that two more of our first-round subcontracts have come to a successful conclusion in May 2013:

  • Touch Graphics has submitted its final report on the Decision Tree, an image sorting tool that helps users determine whether an image should be described and/or turned into a tactile graphic. Their evaluation found that novices were successful in picking the right treatment for an image about 66% of the time using the tool. They noted that even experts sometimes disagree on about whether images require a verbal or tactile treatment for accessibility. Understanding and rectifying expert disagreement will improve the tool’s success rate. Find a link to a PDF of their full report on the DIAGRAM Research Overview page under the “Decision Tree” heading.
  • Richard Ladner from the University of Washington submitted his report on the creation of a QRC reading app that allows users to read QRC labels within a tactile graphic. The project is called “Tactile Graphics with a Voice” (TGV). We are in the process now of getting the final code in an open source repository. In the meantime, see the DIAGRAM Research Overview page under the “Tactile Graphics with a Voice” heading for detailed design documents and other information about the project.

Tools Working Group Update

The Tools Working Group held its quarterly meeting on May 23, 2013. The group continued a discussion that began in the Standards Working Group about the new landscape that is emerging with regard to longdesc adoption by major publishers. Meeting notes are available here on the Tools Working Group wiki page. Co-chairs Gerardo Capiel and Geoff Freed will hold the next quarterly meeting in August 2013 on a date to be determined. Please let Gerardo or Geoff know if you have ideas to contribute for next month’s discussion.


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